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You know, it's funny.
I have a passion for video game design, but lately it's like I've been disinclined to play any games because they're all like a series of books playing on one theme from long ago that simply sold very well. I'm thinking that the crew over at Extra Credits (see link) are on to something with their "Why are games' appeal restricted exclusively to fun?" episode.
Game design nowadays seems less on keeping players engaged and more on keeping them entertained. That's all well and good until the player doesn't want to have fun. When the player wants to learn something, or expand their emotional horizons, or fall in love with a narrative. These A-list games aren't engaging, they're fun, and that's likely one of the many reasons why the gaming industry is the subject of as much scorn as it is.
We've lost the idea of games. We've embraced the idea of entertainment. So much so that our games-vs-entertainment dilemma has crossed over into manifestations in our present reality; Vancouver's riots over a game. Games recruiting for foreign military powers. Games that allow you to live the life of an elementary school murder.
These constructs have been stripped of so much meaning in their effort to entertain, in their effort to draw in their audiences and change their perception of the world. This stripped-down, entertainment-only perception is entirely without any larger meaning, positive or negative, and is therefore reduced to the essence of the act they are trying to allow the player to experience.
America's Army conveys a sense of unity through show of force to foreign powers. Call of Duty at first tried to convey the horrors of war, but then gave in to a near-future, all-hands-in deathmatch, where drones are called down as a reward for killing your opponent. God of War wasn't that bad in and of itself, but EA killing a goat and trussing it up as a sacrifice for the press conference? Despicable.
I long to return to a time where games narratives were crafted carefully, as a masterfully written book would be. Enough with this use-and-forget culture; it's time to create something with sustenance; something that can stand the trials of time and remain on its own of its own accord, something that we can measure our future attempts against. Something universal and awesome.